Senate

Senate Democrats want Ross to testify on census citizenship question

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A group of Senate Democrats is requesting a hearing to dig into the 2020 census after the Trump administration announced this week it would include a question on citizenship. 

Democrats sent a letter on Friday to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, asking that he schedule the public hearing “at the soonest possible time” and that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who announced the change, be asked to testify.

{mosads}”We are deeply concerned about the recent announcement by the Commerce Department that it plans to add a new question to the 2020 Census that will ask respondents about their citizenship. We also remain concerned by well-documented management and operational challenges facing the Census Bureau,” they wrote. 

Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris (Calif.), Tom Carper (Del.), Gary Peters (Mich.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.) signed the letter. 

The senators added that it was “essential” that Ross explain the “process, testing and analysis” behind adding a citizenship question and its impact on the planning for the 2020 census. 

In addition to Ross, they also want acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore to testify, saying they believe he was “personally involved” in the decision. They also want a second group comprised of Census Bureau staff, stockholders and government watchdogs to assess planning for the 2020 census.  

The Commerce Department announced on Monday evening that it would include a citizenship question in the next decennial survey. Ross, at the time, called it a “long-standing historical practice,” though it has not appeared on the full census since 1950.

The move has enraged Democrats. Including a question on citizenship, they warn, could lower participation in immigrant communities and impact how federal resources are allocated or the size of a state’s congressional delegation.

The four Democratic senators warned in their letter on Friday of the “risk of substantial undercount of persons” and that the decision to add the question is “tainted by improper political considerations.” 

The Department of Justice, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, reportedly pushed for inclusion of the question.

Democrats have introduced legislation to block questions on citizenship or immigration status from being included. But they face an uphill battle to getting a bill through the GOP-controlled Congress. 

Democratic attorneys general in several states, as well as progressive outside groups, have also pledged to bring legal action against the decision.

Tags Claire McCaskill Gary Peters Jeff Sessions Ron Johnson Tom Carper Wilbur Ross
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